- Since the declaration of a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO) in Mount Salem, St. James on September 1, 2017, the community has undergone significant transformation under the ‘clear, hold and build’ strategy, particularly in relation to the accompanying social interventions.
- Deputy Chairman of the ZOSO Social Intervention Committee, Omar Sweeney, says the approach being taken aims to ensure the longevity of these programmes after the initiative concludes in Mount Salem.
- He tells JIS News that the measures are being implemented by building and strengthening the community’s leadership through a multi-agency approach.
Since the declaration of a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO) in Mount Salem, St. James on September 1, 2017, the community has undergone significant transformation under the ‘clear, hold and build’ strategy, particularly in relation to the accompanying social interventions.
This transformation is expected to continue, as Parliament recently extended the ZOSO for an additional 60 days, which will facilitate increased social-intervention activities under the build phase.
Deputy Chairman of the ZOSO Social Intervention Committee, Omar Sweeney, says the approach being taken aims to ensure the longevity of these programmes after the initiative concludes in Mount Salem.
He tells JIS News that the measures are being implemented by building and strengthening the community’s leadership through a multi-agency approach.
“We work (by) putting the community leadership at the centre of what we are doing, from the point of view of assessment… dialogue and… implementation. What we are really doing is building the leadership on the ground (and) the ability of residents to see that the local leadership has the capacity to implement projects (from which) the community benefits,” he explains.
Through this approach, residents have been trained and are now spearheading a project to remove 1,000 metres of zinc fences, being implemented at a cost of $26 million.
Mr. Sweeney says while the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), for which he is the Managing Director, continues to provide the financial support, guidance and oversight, the community has been empowered to lead the process through ‘Community Based Contracting’.
He explains that through this methodology, “everything is audited; they (residents) have to provide a pre-programme of what they are going to do… we provide that tranche of resources, (they) show accountability for (that), the work is in place and then another tranche is released.”
Mr. Sweeney notes that while this method may be slower than the normal course of proceedings, it is being utilized to ultimately build the community leadership’s capacities and engender confidence among the residents.
Linkages are also being created through the multi-agency approach, between the residents and various stakeholder agencies.
“While we are operating under the auspices of ZOSO, we are actually integrating… and reintroducing Government services to the local leadership and vice versa,” he explains.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sweeney says the ongoing social activities continue to yield rich dividends throughout Mount Salem.
He informs that, so far, 100 residents have been trained in block making, tiling and welding. Additionally, 20 persons have been trained as parent mentors and will be expected to provide support through the Parenting Resource Centre which was opened in April.
Mr. Sweeney further states that the community has been engaging in a sports recreation programme that includes football and domino tournaments.
Among the other initiatives that have been implemented is an academic development and enrichment programme at Mount Salem Primary and Junior high school.
This entails the utilization of best practices to engage guidance counsellors and teachers in exercises aimed at engendering positive behaviour that will resonate with the students.
Residents have also been afforded an opportunity to tap into business development support which Mr. Sweeney says will essentially “enable local businesses to expand in a way, to employ persons”.
Owners of small businesses will benefit from a recent call for proposal which was published by JSIF. While the proposal was open to other entrepreneurs across the island, if persons from Mount Salem are successful, they could benefit from wide-ranging grant support.
“Applications are going be judged on their respective merits. But the grants range from $1 million to $25 million to support business viability. It is not a cash grant… (but rather) support (for) training, business plan development, equipment and other types of necessary inputs that you need to contribute to the viability of the business,” Mr. Sweeney explains.
Road rehabilitation works are also ongoing throughout the community. The process, which is being led by the National Works Agency at a cost of $22 million, involves the resurfacing of Crawford and Piggott Streets and Peddlers Lane, and accompanying drainage improvements.
Meanwhile, President of the Mount Salem Community Development Committee Benevolent Society, Winsome Barnes, says the intervention programmes have, so far, been a tremendous success, and have served to bring about unity among the residents while breaking down barriers that caused divisions.
“The Social Development Commission (SDC) just completed a fabulous domino competition where people went (from) street to street (and) we played at all different locations…sometimes in a community (where) you have (a) feud; (but) persons were willing and were able to go (and participate),” she states.
There has also been an increase in the number of Community Based Organizations established throughout the community. The most recent is a Neighbourhood Watch that is being managed through the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Community Safety and Security Branch.
Ms. Barnes says residents have been receptive of the various programmes implemented and anticipates Mount Salem becoming a better community.
“This is now our community. We are being given the necessary infrastructure to make us better. We cannot have the police here 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives… (so) we now have to take charge of this community and ensure that whatever is given to us, is kept, maintained, and improved upon, because we (all) must live without the fear of violence. That will make Mount Salem the community of choice to live, work, and raise our families,” she confidently declares.
The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act gives the Prime Minister the power to declare an area a ZOSO in order to tackle increased crime and volatility. This is in consultation with the National Security Council.
The legislation, which was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, also facilitates the implementation of key social interventions in communities adversely affected by crime and violence.
Denham Town in West Kingston is the other community that was declared a Zone of Special Operations.